Happy Imperialism Day

A.k.a. Victoria Day, traditionally celebrated by oppressing brown people. If you haven’t harassed any brown people today, get to it fast before midnight if you want to stick to the spirit of the holiday. I suggest finding a South Asian convenience store clerk and shouting “God save the Queen from you savages!” at them. If you yourself are brown, be sure to punch yourself in the stomach at least once before the sun goes down.

Wherefore art thou

Fun Elizabethan fact: “wherefore” means “why”. So when Juliet asks, “wherefore art thou Romeo?” she means “Romeo, why are you Romeo?” To explain more clearly, Juliet is asking why her beloved is Romeo, i.e., a member of her family’s sworn enemies. It’s obviously a rhetorical question, since it’s not a question anyone can answer. “Wherefore” thus does not mean “where”, and it is incorrect for someone to use it in that manner. This piece of trivia about Early Modern English is brought to you by my sense of responsibility about not updating in too long.

There’s an explanation behind my absence. To sum up my situation succinctly: I have a new job, it’s got crazy hours, but the pay is pretty damn good. I barely have time for anything else now, though, and my scarce downtime is mostly taken up by decompressing. I’ll still be keeping my hand in, but I won’t be as visible online as I used to be.

That is all. Carry on with your normal routine.

Why Sarapen?

Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way: Bulgarians, I am not connected to the Sara Pen store that apparently sells fashion accessories. As for the rest of you, I have not read Lonely Werewolf Girl nor have I named my blog after one of the characters. You people are skewing my Google Analytics numbers. Not that I mind getting more visitors, but I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being gypped.

The blog itself is named after a Filipino children’s rhyming chant that goes like this:

Penpen de sarapen
de kutsilyo de almasen.
Haw haw de carabao

Sayang pula, walang pera.
Sayang puti, walang salapi.

Sipit namimilipit
Gintong Pilak
Sa tabi ng DAGAT!

At least that’s how the version I learned as a child goes, apparently there are minor variations. For a translation and further explanation, go here.

There, now you know the secret behind this blog.

On realizing one is a pedantic shit

I was rooting around in my computer when I spied a text file from 2005 that I apparently wrote for an online debate about prehistoric agriculture in New Guinea. Googling an entire paragraph verbatim reveals that it was for a message board discussion of Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The mini-essay was fairly well-reasoned, made reference to some current scientific knowledge, and synthesized information gleaned from several academic sources not easily accessible to the layperson. It was mostly ignored except by one person who clearly based his objections on self-taught stuff gleaned mostly from the Internet. The “debate” quickly petered out after I made my contribution and the message board thread sank out of sight into the archives.

Jesus, why did I even bother? Looking at the date, it appears that I wrote the mini-essay in my first semester of graduate school. I suspect that I was trying to distract myself from the fact that at the time I was living in a tiny, crappy apartment where I could hear the slapping sounds of my neighbour having sex with his girlfriend. That and I was probably trying to fill the loneliness of moving to a new city. Yes, I hung out with my grad school cohort but we all had our own shit to shovel, our own rows to hoe, so to speak, and the alienation of the modern city can get pretty acute when you’re living by yourself and you don’t know anyone living nearby well enough to call friend.

I’m reminded of this New York Times article about what Internet trolls are like offline. Who could have known – from the content I’d written on the message board – of the specific personal circumstances that fueled my frustration at dealing with the ignorant and the misinformed who’d dared misconstrue the knowledge of my chosen field of study. I was especially annoyed because the message board is the adjunct to a newspaper trivia column that specifically bills itself as “Fighting Ignorance Since 1973”, when in my experience the board was and is a bastion of white privilege and anti-feminist “common sense”. I finally had to quite the message board when I saw how often the same topics came up over and over. I’m kind of back now, but I decided not to read any topics that involved race, gender or American politics in an attempt to prevent my demise from apoplexy.

Anyway, I’m embarrassed at having spent so much time and effort on what was in the end an inconsequential matter, though I suppose helping to correct popular misconceptions is a decent hobby for an aspiring anthropologist (god knows a lot of anthropological knowledge directly contradicts mainstream ideas about human nature). Still, there are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy in one person. Better to do things that one actually likes.

New from Sarapen

New in the sense that it’s new to this blog – by which I mean that I’ve just imported the posts and comments from the first iteration of Sarapen (go to 2006 in the Archives to see the imports or to Sarapen I on the toolbar above to see the original). I still have to fix some of the pictures, though I’m honestly too lazy to bother with the categories and the tags. I think I might have to manually import the stuff from Sarapen II, seeing as how it only exists on the Internet Archive now. I’m definitely not looking forward to that. Ah well, there’s nothing for it but to do it.

Third time’s the charm

I really did want to be with you, but I left because I'd suddenly remembered I had an appointment to interview a famous king of the hoboes.

Well, here I am blogging again. It’s been years since I’ve done any blogging, but like the man said, the king of the hobos wasn’t going to interview himself. For a while now, though, I’ve been itching to get back on that blogging horse, so what the hey. I’ll see about getting my old blog posts transferred here, too.

Once more, with feeling (i.e., to Costa Rica via Montreal and Toronto)

It seems rather like the only times I post are when I feel the need to assert that I’m still around.  Yes, I still have this blog and yes, I haven’t keeled over as of yet.

Besides this important announcement, let it also be known that I have been hired as a “website specialist” for Defensas de Niñas y Niños – Internacional (Children’s Rights International) in Costa Rica.  It’s a human rights NGO based in Guadalupe, which I think is a suburb of the capital, San Jose.  Yes, you people in the know, this is the result of me applying for an international development position in Southeast Asia, preferably the Philippines.  What can I say, this was what I got after mentioning to the coordinating agency Human Rights Internet that I had intermediate level fluency in Spanish.  At least I’ll finally become fluent in Spanish.   I could feel myself on the cusp of it after only 5 weeks in Peru, so the 6 MONTHS I’ll be in Costa Rica should finally and permanently stick castellano into my head.  It’s from October to March and for the journey back I’m actually considering taking the bus from Costa Rica to Los Angeles to see my relatives there, then flying from LA back to Canada.  The whole thing will probably take a month or so.  Anyone out there done anything similar?  Is the infrastructure there or will it be harder than I think?  I’ve never been to Central America, so I have no idea.

By the way, I’m writing this paragraph right now while on the bus from Ottawa to Montreal.  See, I had to come to Ottawa for a training session with HRI which actually turned out to be mostly reading the “contract” (technically it’s not one, apparently — it’s some kind of tax thing).  I’m going to Montreal because there’s another training session with another agency (it’s  complicated), and this one lasts until the 16th.  But, I can’t actually go out and see Montreal because the training takes place in Orford, which I’m told is basically the middle of nowhere, so boo them.  At least room and board are all covered by the host agency.  I kind of wonder if I’ve actually joined a cult because everything is so organized and inward-oriented.  Almost my entire waking hours are scheduled for some kind of training that I don’t really need.  How to overcome culture shock?  Coping with another language?  Really, now.

After that I head to Toronto and spend the 17th buying essential supplies I’ll need for my upcoming journey.  I do have a question for people, though.  I’m thinking of bringing along some small gifts to give to my new Costa Rican  coworkers.  I think it would be better if I gave them something quintessentially Canadian, but what can something like that be if it also will fit in my luggage and not bankrupt me?  Anyone got ideas?  I asked at the Ottawa session and someone suggested Canadian flag pins.

But anyway, that’s what I was up to on my summer vacation (I didn’t read any of my summer books either).


Internet access has been tricky out here in the boonies, I’m only posting this now on the last day of training.  I was going to try meeting up with you Toronto-based folks since I’ll be there all day tomorrow but this is rather last-minute notice, isn’t it?  Mea culpa.

It could be worse

Went skiing on Saturday.  It was the first time I’d gone skiing in two years.  I sucked so bad it was hardly funny.  I lost one of my skis on my first run, which involved me going downhill on my back with my other ski dragging behind me.  That was the only time I lost my skis, so yay for me,  but I didn’t meet my goal of making it through a run without falling.  Still, muscle memory is some good juju.  In the beginning I had to run through a checklist before every run to remind myself of all the stuff you’re supposed to do: lean into turns, snowplow, look where you want to go, etc.  By the end of the day I was starting to do all of this unconsciously.

I looked in the newspaper the next day and apparently there had been an extreme cold warning for Saturday, but it wasn’t really as bad as all that.  My hands went numb several times, but I just took that as a sign to go back inside and warm up.  After all, it’s not a winter sport if you can still feel your fingers.

The “chalet” at the ski hill was rather piss poor, since it’s my opinion that there must be a fireplace for a spot to be called a chalet.  Despite the cold, the runs got really crowded in the afternoon, especially with kids.  Damn those reckless buggers, I almost got hit several times and I saw two snowboarders collide.  On the one hand, I can appreciate that kids and teenagers are supposed to be learning their physical limits, but on the other hand I object to anything that inconveniences me in any way whatsoever.

It’s nice that you can leave your boots in the lodge and be completely confident that they’ll still be there later despite any number of people passing through.  Still, anyone who goes skiing or snowboarding must already have some money, otherwise they wouldn’t be participating in such a bourgeois pastime.  Ski rental and full day pass was only $35.00 for me, so it’s not like skiing is necessarily amazingly expensive (season pass is like $150-200), but admittedly anyone who gets serious about the sport will be spending loads of money on special equipment — not just skis, boots, and poles, but also a proper coat and ski pants, and probably ski mask, gloves, and wick-away underwear and shirt — I wore the wick-away stuff for the first time this Saturday and was impressed at how much less sticky I felt.  Anyone living somewhere cold will have their own coat, gloves, hat (called a tuque here in Canada), and thermal underwear already, but probably a serious skier will want to get the special stuff, since they really do make a difference.

And to top it off, the ski hill was only five to ten minutes away from my house.  My brother said that last season he and his friends went boarding between their classes at the university.  Beyond the parking lot are people’s houses, and it’s kind of cool to look out from the top of the hill and see the winter landscape of suburbia stretching out.  So chalk up one more reason not to hate northern Ontario.

Happy Feast of the Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas officially end tomorrow, so take down those holiday decorations, people.  I didn’t get what I really wanted for Christmas, but hardly anyone ever does.

Anyway, during Christmastide I watched the latest round of the Ultimate Fighting tournament at some dude’s house.  I’m back in northern Ontario now and it’s interesting seeing how stuff is different here than in Halifax, especially the casual codeswitching.  There are quite a few francophones here and even a dialect of French peculiar to the region, so bilingualism in French and English is common among locals.  Many people from here switch back and forth between English and French quite easily, although I noticed that they do it intersententially instead of intrasententially (meaning that they switch the language of their sentences, but not within the sentence itself, i.e., no “Do you wanna coucher avec moi?”).  Still, this intersentential codeswitching happened at a gathering where the speakers couldn’t be sure that everyone spoke French, although they knew everyone spoke English, so the codeswitching would probably be different if the audience was entirely bilingual.

Still, one of the more peculiar parts of the evening (I guess besides the part where people gathered to watch savage beatings on tv) was in the waiting period before the fighting started, when one of the guys there invited everyone to watch Saddam Hussein’s hanging on his laptop.  From the excitement in the way he talked about it, the video sounded rather graphic.  I declined to see it, but most everyone else saw the recording.  Apparently the video quality was rather poor, especially with the shakiness of the cellphone camera.  “That was it?” seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among the viewers.  Still, I wonder what exactly they expected.  Perhaps an execution like on film, with a dramatic speech and bloody climax?  Maybe with the prisoner shouting “Freedom!” until his voice fades away?

The banal nature of the execution seems to be the kicker, added to by the very method used to capture the proceedings.  Surely the execution of the greatest monster of contemporary times (or so we have been told), surely that execution couldn’t have been so ordinary?  Shouldn’t there have been more of a spectacle befitting this most extraordinary death?  Shouldn’t a tumbril have at least been involved, or maybe a bulletproof Popemobile?  But a secret hanging recorded on a cameraphone?  Where’s the drama, the blood?  I can imagine it was a disappointing video to see.  I suppose the videos of various beheadings floating around will have to do until the next important execution.